Rejuvenation of adult stem cells: is age-associated dysfunction epigenetic?

Rejuvenation Res. 2013 Apr;16(2):152-7. doi: 10.1089/rej.2013.1424.


The dysfunctional changes of aging are generally believed to be irreversible due to the accumulation of molecular and cellular damage within an organism's somatic cells and tissues. However, the importance of potentially reversible cell signaling and epigenetic changes in causing dysfunction has not been thoroughly investigated. Striking evidence that increased oxidative stress associated with hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) from aging mice causes dysfunction has been reported. Forced expression of SIRT3, which activates the reactive oxygen species (ROS) scavenger superoxide dismutase 2 (SOD2) by de-acetylation to reduce oxidative stress, functionally rejuvenates mouse HSCs. These data, combined with numerous other reports, suggest that ROS act as a signal transducer to play a critical regulatory role in HSCs and at least in some other stem cells. It is likely that ectopic expression of SIRT3 restores homeostasis in gene expression networks sensitive to oxidative stress. This result was surprising because age-associated damage from impaired DNA repair had been thought to be irreversible in old HSCs. The effect of up-regulated SIRT3 in HSCs is one of first examples in which intrinsic cellular aging, not apparently associated with changes in the micro-environment, was reversed. However, the stability of rejuvenation in the absence of continued supplemental SIRT3 expression was not investigated. These data are consistent with a hypothesis that potentially reversible processes, such as aberrant signaling and epigenetic drift, are relevant to cellular aging. If true, rejuvenation of at least some aged cells may be simpler than generally appreciated.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Adult Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Adult Stem Cells / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Cellular Senescence / physiology*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Rejuvenation / physiology*
  • Sirtuin 3 / metabolism


  • Sirtuin 3